When I first started this blog, I didn't have the slightest inkling that my love for 1995 Fleer would become anything more than a passing thought.
I wrote about it one evening a couple years ago, back when I was still getting my blogging feet wet. The post turned out to get a lot of views and comments and was one of the most well-received write-ups I'd done up to that point. (Still is, actually.)
These days, I enjoy waxing poetic about 1995 Fleer just for the reactions I get. It's basically either "EW, 1995 FLEER!!! GET IT AWAY!!!!!!!! ASPIRIN!!!!!" or "YAY, 1995 FLEER!!!! BEST SET EVER!!!!!!"
There really isn't a lot of middle ground.
Anyone who read my post about the unopened '95 Fleer pack I received from the Junior Junkie probably saw the fun I had opening it. I know my dad did, at least.
Unbeknownst to me, and without any kind of nudge, my dad went searching for an unopened box of 1995 Fleer on Ebay a few weeks ago. Box, as in 36 packs. As in 12 cards per. As in 436 total cards from 1995 Fleer.
And, doggone it, my dad found one. He surprised me with it before our trip to the flea market a couple weeks ago, saying it cost about 14 bucks and change, shipped. That's well under 50 cents per pack. I knew it was the real deal once I saw Raul Mondesi on the cover.
Only a '90s set would have anything like that.
What I found inside was pure bliss.
I hadn't opened a box of baseball cards in over a year before this, and I honestly couldn't think of a better set to break the drought.
I wanted to keep the fun going for as long as possible, so I actually broke from my usual box-busting ways and resisted opening all the packs in one sitting. I was able to make the 36 packs last for a little over a day before temptation got the better of me. The final 10 packs or so were opened all at once.
With the amount of writing I've done on '95 Fleer in the past, I was left wondering what else I could say about the wacky set. That's about when I came up with the idea of an "award show" dedicated to anything and everything 1995 Fleer. Applause from some, jeers from others.
If you'll indulge me, I'll be running through a list of random, quirky, and (hopefully) funny categories all devoted to '95 Fleer, the most demented set ever released.
Roll out the neon red carpet.
Most psychedelic design -- NL EAST
We begin with the hallmark of this set.
If you're not familiar with 1995 Fleer, each division received its own wacky design within the checklist. All the AL Central cards have the same template, as do the NL Central, and so on.
The craziest of the six designs, if you ask me, comes from the NL East. They're the perfect example of why I've come to call 1995 Fleer "The LSD Set".
The sheer amount of blue on this particular card has me worried that Roberto Kelly is drowning.
Most tame design -- AL EAST
This is what qualifies as tame for 1995 Fleer.
A card like this would stick out like a sore thumb in any other set, yet it's about the closest you'll see to normalcy in this post. The fact that "Donnie Baseball" here is a reverse-negative makes this specific card even kookier.
Mattingly, of course, was a lefty, and you can clearly see the flipped Yankee logo on his jersey.
Best uniform/design combo -- SEATTLE MARINERS
Something about that very '90s shade of teal works perfectly with this blobbish design.
Defunct '90s uniforms I'd most like to forget -- MILWAUKEE BREWERS
God, those things were horrendous.
Milwaukee's current jerseys aren't exactly a treat, but I'd take them a hundred times out of a hundred over these pajama bottoms.
Best use of irony -- 1995 FLEER WRAPPERS
I came very close to not catching this at all, but take a deep look at the words underneath the MLB logos on the back of this wrapper.
Do cards, not drugs.
Part of me hopes that the people at Fleer recognized the irony.
Biggest lesson learned about 1995 Fleer boxes -- YOUR COLLATION SUCKS, FLEER
Seeing as how 1995 Fleer is a 600-card set, I probably shouldn't have gotten many doubles (if any) in my 426-card box.
Not so. The only real downside to this awesome box was the crappy collation. I received doubles and triples of a healthy amount of cards.
I pulled this Mike Piazza/Pudge Rodriguez (on the flip side) insert, I repeat, insert four different times. These come one per pack, and I received the same one in four of them.
Best action shot -- Ruben Sierra
With such a crazy design, it's easy to pass up the actual photos themselves in this checklist.
Truth be told, there aren't a lot of memorable ones. It's not an image-based checklist, which is fine for something of this nature.
But I'm a big fan of anything that features a leg kick like that.
Best Eck-Face -- ECK
Best specs -- CHUCK McELROY, CHRIS SABO, BOB HAMELIN (tie)
I couldn't decide, so the award goes to all three.
Whitest kicks -- JEFF BAGWELL
Because that's what this LSD technology does to shoes.
Best back -- BRENT MAYNE
Again, given the insane fronts, the backs aren't necessarily a major point of concern.
But I felt they deserved a mention nonetheless. The backs are important parts of baseball cards, people.
I couldn't find many stand-out flip sides, so I gave the award to Brent Mayne purely for the shades.
Most obscure namesake for current MLB star -- JOSE BAUTISTA
You might know Jose Bautista as the perennial All-Star outfielder with the Blue Jays.
What might interest you, however, is the fact that there was a different guy named Jose Bautista (a pitcher) in the bigs a couple decades ago. This Jose Bautista posted a mediocre 4.62 ERA in nine big league seasons, ending his career with the Cardinals in 1997.
The more you know.
Most obscure relative of former MLB star -- TERRY McGRIFF
Did anyone else know Fred McGriff had a cousin who played in the majors?
I sure didn't.
Best sunsets -- GOOSE GOSSAGE, DAVE HENDERSON (tie)
Both Gossage and Henderson closed out their career in fairly unfamiliar uniforms.
"Goose" made 36 appearances for the 1994 Mariners, while Henderson played in 56 games for the '94 Royals. Both were out of baseball by the time the 1995 season finally came around.
These wacky designs certainly sent Gossage and Henderson out with a bang.
Cards most likely to give me nightmares -- KEN HILL, BOBBY MUNOZ (tie)
Fleer managed to make Bobby Munoz look a tad too devilish for my liking.
I wasn't sure what freaked me out so much about the Hill at first, but it hit me after about the third or fourth look. Those glowing eyes remind me of the famous Zoltar machine from one of my favorite movies, a scene that always used to scare me when I was younger for some reason.
Still scares me a bit now, to be honest.
The inserts in 1995 Fleer are actually pretty normal, all things considered.
Nice, normal pictures. No LSD-inspired designs. Solid work. A lot of the fun from this box came from seeing what inserts I'd pull with each passing pack.
While these are definitely neat...
Best inserts -- PRO-VISIONS
...these fit the 1995 Fleer mold way better than any of the others.
The "Pro-Visions" series is weird, wild, and spectacular.
Rocket ships flying off the barrel of Jeff Bagwell's bat. Cy Young Awards materializing out of a sea next to Greg Maddux. Manny Ramirez brandishing a tornado. Mike Mussina throwing literal fireballs. It's all there.
It's interesting to note that Fleer designed a similar insert series the year prior.
In hindsight, maybe that was a hint of what was to come in 1995 Fleer.
Best card of the box -- DEREK JETER "MAJOR LEAGUE PROSPECTS" INSERT
As great as everything else was, this ended up being the big WOW pull of the box.
It's among the first of the thousands of Jeter cards that would be produced during his illustrious career, for one thing. But what struck me most about this particular insert is the sheer awkwardness of seeing a #24 stitched across The Captain's back.
That famous #2 has pretty much become ingrained in my memory. Imagine how different things would've been had Jeter stuck with #24.
Makes you think.
Well, that about does it for this award show. Sorry, no lavish after-parties or anything like that. I'm sure there's some food in your refrigerator you can heat up or something. Maybe a tall glass of water to go along with the aspirin some of you are taking right now.
In the end, all I can do is honor the man who made this whole award show possible. My dad.
This box was an absolute blast to open, and it's all thanks to him.